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Sen. Joe Manchin still opposes ending the filibuster, even as Democrats throw a tantrum after GOP blocked Jan. 6 commission

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Progressive activists and several Democratic senators are throwing a tantrum and yet again are demanding an end to the filibuster after Republicans blocked a bill last week to create a "9/11-style" commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), like an exhausted parent, is telling them "no" for what seems like the millionth time.

After the Jan. 6 commission bill was filibustered, Manchin released a joint statement with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) imploring Republicans to work with Democrats to reach a bipartisan agreement to form the commission. But reporters insisted on hounding Manchin with questions on whether he would continue to oppose ending the filibuster.

"I'm not separating our country, OK?" an exasperated Manchin told them. "I don't know what you all don't understand about this. You ask the same question every day. It's wrong."

The 73-year-old lawmaker, who has the distinctive reputation of being the last moderate Democrat in the U.S. Senate, said ending the 60-vote requirement in the Senate would be tantamount to destroying the government by removing the need for both parties to cooperate to advance legislation.

This is at least the seventh time Manchin has made his position unambiguously clear since last July when he told CNN that then-candidate Joe Biden's openness to killing the filibuster was "bulls**t."

"The whole intention of Congress is basically to have a little bit of compromise with the other side," Manchin said July 23. "Our job is to find common and cooling ground, if you will, to make something work that makes sense."

But after Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election and since Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans, Manchin has been asked about the filibuster again, and again, and again every time it becomes apparent that Republicans will oppose major pieces of President Joe Biden's left-wing agenda.

Even an April 7 op-ed Manchin wrote titled, "I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster," has not stymied the questions on his position, which were renewed as Senate Democrats prepare to go to political war this summer.

In June, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to bring up major pieces of the Biden agenda in the Senate. The Democratic overhaul of U.S. elections, the Equality Act, and gun control are all on the table as Schumer lays the groundwork to blame the Republican minority and the filibuster for stalling progress during Biden's first term ahead of the midterm elections.

"We have also seen the limits of bipartisanship and the resurgence of Republican obstructionism. ... Senate Democrats are doing everything we can to move legislation in a bipartisan way when and where the opportunity exists," Schumer wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues.

"The June work period will be extremely challenging. I want to be clear that the next few weeks will be hard and will test our resolve as a Congress and a conference," he said.

Several Democratic senators are already resolved to blame Republican obstruction and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the filibuster for every failed Democratic effort in the weeks to come.

"Filibustering a bipartisan commission regarding the January 6 insurrection is a three-dimensional way to make the point that the filibuster is primarily a destructive force in American politics," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said last Tuesday.

The following Friday, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Senate Democrats should not tolerate Republicans using the filibuster.

"I think we should not perpetuate McConnell's bastardization of the Senate filibuster," he said.

It's unclear what Senate Democrats think they can do tangibly to circumvent the Republican minority's filibuster threats with both Manchin and Sinema opposed to changing the rules.

For now, it appears Democrats will rely on pressure from their base to change Manchin's mind.

"For some of my colleagues on the Democratic side, who support the filibuster in the extreme, we're going to have to have an explanation," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told The Hill. "Look at the extreme. It is just indefensible."

More than 50 progressive activist groups have banded together to create that pressure, issuing a joint statement last Friday calling on Democrats to end the so-called legislative "veto" of the Republican minority.

"The path forward is clear: The filibuster must be eliminated as a weapon that a minority of senators can wield to veto popular democracy-protecting bills," the statement said.

But without Manchin's support the filibuster will stay. Progressives and journalists have been badgering him about his position on the filibuster for nearly a year now.

He hasn't changed his mind.

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